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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

In 1975, Congress enacted a landmark bill on behalf of persons with disabilities: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA provides that all children with disabilities have a federally-protected right to a free appropriate public education that meets their schooling and related needs in the least restrictive environment, in regular classes, in the school the student would attend if not disabled.

Prior to IDEA, the special education needs of more than eight million students with disabilities were not being met. For example, some students were entirely excluded from school, while others failed to receive an appropriate education. Many of those who did receive educational services were educated far away from their local schools.

Under IDEA, students with disabilities are entitled to support services and devices (such as assistive listening systems, Braille textbooks, talking computers, and speech synthesizers) as needed to facilitate their learning in classrooms alongside nondisabled students. IDEA has significantly improved the quality of the public education received by millions of American children with disabilities.

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